HC Deb 15 June 1992 vol 209 c645
32. Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

To ask the Attorney-General when he expects to bring prosecutions under the War Crimes Act 1991.

The Attorney-General

Both the Metropolitan police and the Crown prosecution service have dedicated teams examining the evidence relating to alleged war crimes. It has been possible to narrow and focus the area of investigation, but the question of prosecutions must await completion of individual investigations and a careful scrutiny of all the evidence obtained.

Mr. Townsend

Is it not disgraceful that this country is about to follow the old Soviet Union and modern Israel in staging vindictive war crimes trials? Is it not true that we are dealing with only three elderly individuals, all former citizens of the Baltic states? Is it not also highly unlikely that any one of them would be alive to be sentenced if he were found guilty? Would it not be wise to bring this whole stupid business to a rapid end?

The Attorney-General

The investigations followed a statutory enactment in accordance with the will of Parliament, but any prosecution decision will be taken in accordance with the principles that apply to all other prosecutions, in which fairness to all parties, including the accused, is an important, if not an essential, part.

Mr. Janner

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that prosecution for war crimes is not regarded as a stupid business, as has been alleged, by anyone with any real or certainly any personal involvement in the mass murders concerned? In view of the decision of the House, by an overwhelming majority from both sides, will the Attorney-General please confirm that when the evidence is ready, it will be assessed by the Director of Public Prosecutions and that she will decide, as he has said, on the ordinary principles of our law, whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant prosecution and, if there is sufficient evidence, prosecutions will proceed as swiftly as is possible and proper?

The Attorney-General

The evidence, as and when or if and when it appears and appears to be sufficient to give rise to a prosecution, will be assessed against the ordinary criteria, without fear or favour, affection or ill will.